Alumni Column: Personal Development in an Evolving Landscape

 

 

Stephen W. Solomon '76

Once again it’s a great pleasure for me to ad­dress issues relating to career planning and per­sonal development. In 2008, during the week of Wall Street‘s October meltdown, I wrote a piece “Career Planning – Now What?” and last year this month my article “To the Best of My Ability” reviewed interview preparation and related skills. Today I would like to add some structure and outline how you can further your personal development to maximize your appeal for potential employers.

In the future there will be a need for stu­dents to develop a stronger and more com­petitive personal profile. What has changed? Traditionally, young people have sought to pursue a certain skill set, attain a position within an organization and build a career for life in a relatively stable environment. Today we deal with challenges of a global nature broadcast for our attention through the web. We seek to interpret information as we define who we are in the wider scheme of things. For example, we understand viscerally that the rise of China, Brazil, India and other nations (or groups of nations) is transforming our globe as certain aspects of power and influence shift eastward and southward. More than ever be­fore we need the tools to interpret and manage this change in order to capture benefits for the mutual good.

Adapting our university for change is under­way. The Core, a vital hallmark of a Colgate ed­ucation, has been revised in line with the chal­lenges of the times. Career Services has launched initiatives for your use in the areas of interview and resume preparation and internships. Most Colgate students participate in study groups off campus for as long as their schedules, interests and resources permit. Everyone is concerned with managing their precious time effectively.

In this fast evolving landscape there is a need to put personal development in a broad and global context. I call this the three dimensions of personal development:

The first is all about individual skill sets: what you know and what you bring to the table as a per­son. In the past this was the dimension that helped you get a good job in the private or public sector. It remains for many professions such as medicine and law where practice depends on specific skill acquisition in a field of specialization. However, for people seeking leadership positions this is no longer sufficient. For example, you cannot expect to become a CEO of a multinational with little experience or knowledge in the dimensions that follow below.

The second is awareness of society at large. People in both the private sector and the public sector must have an understanding and appre­ciation of how the other operates in terms of dynamics, overlapping issues and limitations. In the past the private and public sectors operated mostly independently of each other and only touched at certain well defined points, e.g. taxa­tion and regulation. In the future the boundar­ies will become increasingly blurred and those individuals who can actively contribute to the good of society when opportunities arise will have a competitive advantage over their peers.

The final dimension is cultural awareness and international experience as a step toward achieving a measure of global citizenry. We expect that indicators of relative US econom­ic output will diminish as other powers rise. Anyone who has the tools, tact and sensitivity to navigate opportunities abroad will reap the greatest benefits. In the past many have learned European languages and worked in the interna­tional division of US organizations. The future demands a deeper penetration of global societ­ies through learning a wider set of languages and integrating oneself into the local as well as the international community.

Planning your career around this framework calls for a detailed and well-considered plan. Students need to seek out job and study expe­rience abroad, ideally in more demanding and different cultural environments.

A topical excellent example of a society in flux that has immediate bearing on our lives is that of China, specifically in terms of the ram­pant plagiarism and corruption within universi­ties and industry as revealed in the October 6, 2010 New York Times article entitled “Rampant Fraud Threatens China’s Brisk Ascent” by An­drew Jacobs. We are confronted with a clash of values. Our western values are rooted in liberal democracy and its supporting institutions while China appears to be hamstrung by allegiance to authority and the demands of a self-serving bureaucratic elite pursuing relentless economic progress at all costs. What is Japan’s take on China? How does this contrast with the Euro­pean view? How has China historically reacted to outside pressure and what are its current sen­sitivities? How are we to make sense of this and how can we promote reform in our dealings with this powerhouse? What solutions might we want to sponsor in line with China’s own current aspirations?

I hope that these thoughts serve you well as you develop your personal profile – wherever you are headed – while here at Colgate, while studying abroad and then as alumni. You have a great opportunity at this special university to distinguish yourselves within this community of scholars and advisors. Naturally, I would ex­pect that you are patronizing Career Services for interview preparations and scheduling as well as reaching out to our alumni.

The more experience you get under your belt the more adept you will be at navigating different avenues of your search. In the full­ness of time many of you will share your stories about your personal development in a return visit to Hamilton, sponsoring a student in­tern or maybe through an article in The Col­gate International. We have a lot to learn from one another.